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Itanagar: The search and rescue mission for locating the missing mountaineer Tapi Mra and his companion Niku Dao has wrapped up its third operation, grappling with considerable shifts in Mt Khyarisattam‘s topography that intensified the mission’s complexity.

Yatok Mra Nilo, Tapi Mra’s sister, shared that despite rigorous search efforts in the region, no definitive evidence pertaining to the whereabouts of the missing individuals was uncovered. The unpredictable adverse weather conditions exacerbated the conditions and compelled the team to reluctantly suspend their efforts.

Nilo attributed the temporary suspension to the dynamic movement of glaciers and the prevalence of thick ice sheets in the area. Undeterred by the challenges, she affirmed the family’s commitment to resuming the search next year, while simultaneously appealing to the state government for continued support whenever necessary.

Mra, the pioneering mountaineer hailing from Arunachal Pradesh, and his companion Niku Dao, went missing during their official exploration of the snow-shrouded expanse of Mount Kyarisatam in East Kameng district last year.

Elaborating on protocol, Nilo highlighted the significance of adhering to governmental guidelines, stating, “In accordance with stipulated norms, the declaration of death requires a waiting period of 7 years for missing persons. Though a year has transpired, we are prepared to endure an additional six years if needed, all while persistently seeking concrete evidence to ascertain the status of the missing, whether alive or deceased.”

This course of action is pivotal in availing government benefits, especially since Tapi Mra served as a government employee.

Nilo also shed light on the primary purpose of Mra and Dao’s expedition to Mt Khyarisattam. Their overarching aim was to chart a navigable route, ultimately positioning the state as a burgeoning adventure tourism hub. Despite misconceptions surrounding this vision, Nilo underscored their steadfast commitment to transforming the region into a prominent adventure sports destination.

Addressing media representatives at a press briefing, Nilo expressed, “While concrete evidence confirming my brother and his companion’s fate remains elusive, barring the recovery of a water bottle, the prevailing inclination points towards their unfortunate demise. Yet, buoyed by optimism, we are resolute in our pursuit of substantial proof.”

On the logistical front, Nilo urged prompt resolution of the Rs 74 lakh budget incurred by the family for search and rescue operations and related expenses. The family had already received Rs 20 lakh from the state government for the recent search and rescue operation. This allocation facilitated engagements such as enlisting Nepalese experts, covering transportation outlays, and remunerating porters, team members, and ancillary necessities. With the culmination of the third operation, the onus of financial responsibility has transitioned to the family.

While discussing outstanding requisitions, Nilo divulged that pending actions encompassed addressing concerns regarding the former district commissioner of East Kameng district and renaming the Daporijo indoor stadium to “Tapi Mra Stadium.” Furthermore, the family’s appeals for financial assistance to Niku Dao’s family and a government job opportunity for Mra’s kin remain unattended.

‘No support from the Army’

Renowned mountaineer Tagit Sorang, who spearheaded a team of nine members in the quest for Tapi Mra and his companion Niku Dao, expressed deep disappointment over the Indian Army’s lack of cooperation during the search operation.

Despite relentless attempts to establish contact via satellite phones, Sorang’s team received “no affirmative response from the Army”.

In a press interaction at the Press Club on Friday, Sorang revealed that despite multiple pleas for assistance, the Army remained unresponsive. Although two army helicopters were on standby for potential rescue operations, they remained grounded when urgently required.

Sorang noted that adverse weather conditions around Mt Khyarisattam left a couple of team members stranded, unable to return to the base in Seppa. Despite the state government’s appeal for aid and favourable weather conditions, the expected Army support did not materialise, even though the team was willing to cover the expenses.

“It seemed almost as if Mt Khyarisattam region existed in isolation from the rest of India. In a more connected scenario, the Indian Army’s response to our distress calls would have been different,” lamented Sorang. He recalled having received an official’s contact number before embarking on the search and rescue operation.

Sorang urged the Ministry of Defense to elucidate the reasons behind denying the team aerial assistance.

On a divergent note, Sorang dispelled earlier assertions that the Chinese Army may have apprehended the missing individuals. He attributed this hypothesis to the challenging terrain and proposed that the state government conduct annual search operations to conclude logically in the matter.

“Formidable ice sheets, spanning approximately 50 meters, posed insurmountable challenges for our team, rendering it exceedingly arduous to locate anything beneath them. This served as a pivotal reason compelling us to suspend the search operation and retreat,” Sorang expounded.

Refuting rumours of a recurring trend where individuals who journeyed to Mt. Khyarisattam did not return, Sorang emphatically underscored that his team had thrice safely returned from the location. He earnestly beseeched the public to desist from perpetuating such unsubstantiated rumors, as they impeded efforts to assemble search teams.

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In the midst of his declarations, Sorang fervently appealed to the state government to fulfil the financial obligations of Tapi Mra’s family. He disclosed that the family incurred substantial debts to sustain the search operation.

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